The Good. The Olympus M.Zuiko ED 17mm F1.2 PRO, 25mm F1.2 PRO, and 45mm F1.2 PRO are rugged, ergonomic, and capture sharp images with some of the best bokeh I’ve seen on a modern Micro Four-Thirds lens.
The Bad. Very little, to be honest. The only reason not to buy an Olympus F1.2 PRO is budget. At over $1,100 each, they’re not exactly cheap, and to buy all three plus a body, you’re dropping over $5,000, easy.
The Bottom Line. Every Olympus (& Panasonic) shooter should consider adding at least one to his or her kit, assuming they are within budget.
Pick These Up If… You want the best modern prime lenses available today for Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds cameras.
In the fall of 2016, we traveled to Iceland to test out the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and two PRO series lenses. I was so focused on testing the camera system’s performance, features, and rugged capabilities — as well as the versatility of the M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 PRO — that I only spent a couple hours with the 25mm F1.2 PRO prime lens. With a 50mm / F2.4 equivalent field of view / max aperture, I was instantly taken with the lens’ portrait capabilities.
Late last year Olympus added two more F1.2 PRO lenses to the company’s prime lineup: the M.Zuiko ED 17mm F1.2 PRO and M.Zuiko ED 45mm F1.2 PRO take everything we loved about the 25mm F1.2 PRO, but offer shooters a wider or more telephoto field-of-view.
Together the trio make, in photography nomenclature, the Olympus Holy Trinity of primes and they’re simply wonderful all around, so let’s dive in!
(NOTE: click on any sample image to see or download the full-size files)
- Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II
- Olympus OM-D EM-10 Mark III
- Olympus 17mm F1.2 PRO
- Olympus 25mm F1.2 PRO
- Olympus 45mm F1.2 PRO
(Courtesy of http://www.getolympus.com/)
17mm F1.2 PRO
- Focal Length: 17mm
- 35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 34mm
- Lens Construction: 15 Elements in 11 Groups (1 Super ED lens, 3 ED lenses, 1 ED-DSA lens, 1 EDA lens, 1
- Super HR lens, 1 aspherical lens)
- Dust & Drip Proof: Yes
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.2m
- Maximum Aperture: F1.2
- Minimum Aperture: F16
25mm F1.2 PRO
- Focal Length: 25mm
- 35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 50mm
- Lens Construction: 19 Elements in 14 Groups (1 Super ED lens, 2 ED lenses, 1 E-HR lenses, 3 HR lenses,1 aspherical lens)
- Dust & Drip Proof: Yes
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.3m
- Maximum Aperture: f1.2
- Minimum Aperture: f16
45mm F1.2 PRO
- Focal Length: 45mm
- 35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 90mm
- Lens Construction: 14 Elements in 10 Groups (1 ED lens, 4 HR lenses,1 aspherical lens)
- Dust & Drip Proof:Yes
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.5m
- Maximum Aperture: F1.2
- Minimum Aperture: F16
I never worry about shooting with Olympus PRO glass because they’re all so well made. Outside of a hard drop on rocks (by another journalist), I’ve never seen one fail. Coupled with an OM-D E-M1 (Mark I or Mark II) or OM-D E-M5 Mark II, PRO-series lenses complete extremely weatherproof camera systems that I’ve personally shot in the middle of snow, rain, and blowing dust at both ends of the temperature spectrum. Coupled with sharp optics designed for modern sensors and AF systems, M.Zuiko PRO lenses boast above average build quality. I also admire the way Olympus blends compact form-factor with durable metals for the lens barrel and focusing ring. Don’t believe me? Head back to any cheap kit or plastic-barrel lens and see what happens when you shoot in inclement weather.
If you’ve shot with the 25mm F1.2 PRO, you already know exactly what it’s like to hold the new F1.2 PRO siblings because, externally, these three primes are identical save for the 17mm, 25mm, and 45mm labels. Interestingly enough, this is design choice, aimed at those who want to use these lenses for video production. You can swap all three lenses in and out of a video rig without having to adjust the size or redistribute weight. Plus, if you use any on-lens filters, you can get away with owning one size/set for all three lenses.
If you’ve never shot with the 25mm, all three F1.2 PRO lenses feel great in the hand; well weighted, but not large. While smaller and lighter in overall, they are about the length of a telephoto prime you’d find for APS-C or Full-Frame camera systems, which is a nice balance for camera bodies like the Olympus E-M1ii and Panasonic GH4/5/5s.
Another benefit for all PRO series Olympus glass is the built-in L-Fn button, which you can program and customize within the Olympus menu systems, as well as the unique manual focus clutch. For those unfamiliar with Olympus lenses, this clutch allows you to disengage AutoFocus by sliding the entire focus ring towards the camera body (it clicks), which is great for making minute adjustments (something that comes in hand when you’re shooting above F2). The one downside with the clutch is that, sometimes, you’ll forget you touched it OR bump it accidentally and suddenly find yourself without working AF.
SPEED & FOCUS
Overall, I found all three F1.2 PRO primes worked well with the E-M1ii’s Hybrid AF system in all but the darkest lighting conditions. For most scenarios, subjects were found quickly, quietly, and tracked as needed. Any instances of hunting were caused by darker lighting situations or where there was something contrasty in the background. I don’t love Olympus’ AF system for video (specifically, for vlogging or working alone) as the Canon, Sony, and Fuji phase-detection systems are better all-around, but I didn’t encounter any major issues for stills and video. With the contrast-detection AF system of the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, the lenses were much more prone to issues, but it’s not really their fault
Delicious, buttery bokeh is the visual highlight of the Olympus F1.2 PRO series lenses. Not only because they produce a dreamy background anytime you’re shooting around lights, but also because you can customize what you want your bokeh to look like. What do I mean by this? Check out the photos above. As you stop down from F1.2 to F1.8 and beyond, the bokeh itself changes from feathered to solid orbs.
Olympus says the feathered bokeh creates background imagery that calls less attention to itself because it lacks the hard edges that come with solid bokeh, and the effect is quite wonderful, especially when you’re shooting around subject matter like colored Christmas lights. It was a lot of fun stopping the aperture up and down to fine-tune the look of a specific shot and the bokeh I imagined for each scenario.
Bottom line: the Olympus F1.2 PRO lenses are bokeh beasts!
17mm. The widest of the trio, the 34mm-equivalent 17mm F1.2 PRO is sharp and colorful like its siblings. Contrast and color are good, especially when paired with the E-M1ii, and require little tweaking in post. It’s less of a traditional portrait lens than the other two, but it’s perfect for street photography and group portraits and product shots. Plus, it has the shortest minimum focus distance of the bunch, which allows you to compensate for its internet lack of compression (compared to more telephoto focal lengths). In other words, you can almost shoot macro photography, but still push an ultra-shallow depth of field if you wish. Or, for wider shots where you want everything in focus, you can step back and let this glass do its thing.
In terms of flaws, the 17mm doesn’t present any vignetting that I could see, but I did see purple fringing in a few high contrast shots and it seems like the frame’s corners are a bit softer than center-frame or even the frame edges.
25mm. Since this lens was previously reviewed, I’ll keep this one short. With a 50mm equivalent, the 25mm is the classic portrait lens of the bunch. It too suffers from minor purple fringing, but it’s flaws are few and far in between. It’s a great, compact lens that’s not too wide and not too telephoto. It simply delivers (again) wonderful colors, contrast, and sharp subject matter.
45mm. Hands down, my favorite F1.2 PRO Holy Trinity lens. With a 90mm equivalent and the ability to fine-tune your bokeh from feathered to (classic) orbital, this is one of the finest prime lenses ever made, and my personal favorite piece of Olympus PRO series glass (shhh, don’t tell the 25mm!). I love the way it compresses backgrounds and really highlights your subject. Sure, it has the further minimum focus distance, but a half meter is still pretty close, which will allow you to achieve some truly artistic and poetic shots with depth-of-field so shallow it makes you feel like you have a larger sensor camera. This lens makes you feel like a painter at times.
It’s worth noting that, alongside still images, the 17mm, 25mm, and 45mm F1.2 PRO lenses work quite well for video, producing sharp imagery with cinematic depth-of-field. In working with the E-M1 Mark II, I found that they each produce pleasing results, although it would be great to have a wider option for hand-held vlogging. However, with a tripod (or someone holding the camera), it’s easy to get quick, crisp shots with gorgeous backgrounds (especially ones with lots of lights). Plus, if you’re relying on autofocus or doing a touchscreen focus-shift, the F1.2 PRO lenses are virtually silent, which is a must-have feature for creators and artists.
However, much of your success with video will depend on the camera’s AF system. When you step down from the Olympus flagship, into something like the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, its contrast-AF system introduces a fair amount of hunting in darker shooting conditions and/or when you have high-contrast backgrounds.
Overall, though, the Olympus F1.2 PRO Holy Trinity would make an excellent cinema or filmmakers’ kit for anyone shooting on Olympus or Panasonic gear. (Note to self: try these out on the GH5, GH5S, and G9.)
- Stunning Bokeh
- Fringing in high contrast scenarios
- Some hunting with contrast-based Olympus/Panasonic AF systems
Everyone with Olympus and Panasonic camera systems needs to demo these lenses. They’re that good. But they’re also pretty expensive. Are they worth the price? That’s ultimately up to you, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find sharper M4/3 glass with extraordinary bokeh on lenses that are also weather-sealed and designed to work with modern AF systems.
I just selfishly wish we lived in a fantasy world where these were $500 lenses.
In that sense, here’s what I’d recommend doing if you’re wondering to yourself, what should I buy if I can only afford one or two of them?
The 45mm F1.2 PRO is my absolute favorite, personally. It’s a stunner that would be great for portraits and filmmaking. If you can only afford one, get this one and stick to the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO for wider stuff. If you can get two, I suggest picking up the 17mm F1.2 PRO next, if only because its focal length is dramatically different so you have two dramatic options for your shots. Conversely, if your first two lenses are the 17mm and 25mm, I don’t think you’ll see enough of a difference to warrant spending over $2,200 for the pair. The 25mm is the last one I’d purchase if I was buying all three, but that’s certainly not a comment on the lens itself. Actually, the 25mm F1.2 PRO would be my alternate first choice if you don’t want the full telephoto feel of 90mm equivalent 45mm F1.2 PRO.
If you own a Micro Four Thirds camera system and you're looking for ultra-sharp prime lenses with stunning bokeh for portraits, product shots street photography, weddings, architecture, landscapes, and/or filmmaking, the Olympus F1.2 PRO Holy Trinity need to be at the very top of your list.